Ryan Poles talks about the offensive line when meeting the media
The Chicago Bears had a busy Monday in the negotiating phase of free agency. General manager Ryan Poles signed two linebackers, an offensive guard, and a defensive end. Head coach Matt Eberflus hinted Tuesday that more exciting moves were coming in the week.
The Bears have signed since signed a backup running back and quarterback in a relatively dull free-agency week. Ryan Poles addressed the offensive line during Thursday’s press conference after introducing each player the Bears signed this week.
Poles said he felt fortunate the Bears were able to land Nate Davis for next season. He is excited to see an “elite run-blocking talent” join the interior offensive line.
— Bears Communications (@BearsPR) March 16, 2023
Poles explained why the Bears didn’t go after the top offensive line prize in free agency, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. He said there wasn’t a scheme match for Brown and the Bears–after the left tackle went from the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs to the Cincinnati Bengals, who were a few plays away from going to the Super Bowl last year.
Poles suggested changes might be coming to the center position. According to Adam Jahns with The Athletic, veteran offensive lineman Cody Whitehair could wind up being the next Bears’ starting center.
It’s been mentioned before but Bears GM Ryan Poles said that Cody Whitehair is now an option at center.
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) March 16, 2023
Whitehair would be an improvement over Sam Mustipher at center. According to Pro Football Focus, Whitehair’s best seasons have been when he’s played at center. He was graded 87.5 overall in 2016 when all 1,009 of his snaps were at center. Whitehair was graded above 70 in all seasons, but in 2019 when he saw snaps at center after 2016.
Ryan Poles hasn’t shown he can build in the trenches
The Bears’ free agency has disappointed fans who hoped the team would spend their cash on premium positions this week. Ryan Poles seems unwilling to outbid teams at elite positions, as evidenced when the Bears were outbid by the Denver Broncos for Mike McGlinchey–a sure Bears “scheme” fit. He appears to want to add those positions in the draft where the Bears can draft and develop homegrown talent cheaply.
But the lack of help in the trenches makes other signings feel hollow. Tremaine Edmunds would be a phenomenal linebacker signing if the Bears had a solid three-technique and a decent defensive line. However, the Bears had an elite linebacker in Roquan Smith last season, and the defense looked abysmal without a defensive line to aid the linebackers and secondary. Edmunds is a signing one could argue is an overpay for a non-premium position.
Poles could be making a mistake by not paying for premium positions in free agency. There’s a reason why playoff teams are willing to pay free agents for trench help that they know will be a lock in future seasons.
Poles could have then looked to draft and develop the linebackers unit. Instead, the Bears will gravitate toward the back of the top ten or, possibly middle, of the first round of the draft and hope they don’t take a draft bust with a premium position. That’s a major risk for a team that will still need time to develop that player as Justin Fields’ rookie contract window winds down.
The Chicago Bears aren’t fixing the pass-blocking problem
Davis isn’t a bad guard. I’m not going to bash him right now for being something he’s not. It’s Ryan Poles’ decision to neglect Fields protection in the passing game by bringing in players like Davis that is the overwhelming problem for the Bears’ offense right now. Poles admitted he brought Davis in as a run-blocker. He’s not good at pass protection. And the Bears really shouldn’t hope to model the Tennessee Titans’ passing game with Fields and its upgraded wide receiver corps.
The Bears must upgrade their pass blocking regardless of the “scheme.”. The scheme had Fields sitting out Week 18 when he had the chance to break the single-season rushing record for a quarterback because Poles’ hand-sculpted offensive line couldn’t protect him. Poles came into Free agency with an arsenal of cash no team could match this week to fix the line on either side of the ball. He chose not to do it, unlike his former team, the Chiefs did by bringing in Jawaan Taylor and Charles Omenihu.
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